By Robert Szostek, USAREUR Customs Public Affairs
WIESBADEN, Germany — Many of us take trips to the United States and elsewhere at this time of year. But don’t leave Germany without a valid Status of Forces Agreement stamp or card, because you will need it when you come back to Germany.
German immigration officials report that U.S. forces Family members and civilians are showing up at Frankfurt International Airport and Ramstein Air Base terminals without proper documentation.
German officials have been very lenient in the past; however, they have noticed an increase in personnel leaving and re-entering Germany without a SOFA stamp or card.
“Military members stationed in Germany are required to present a military ID card, service travel orders and, if on leave, a valid leave form when leaving or entering Germany,” said Wil Respress, chief of the U.S. Army Customs Agency – Europe office at Ramstein.
For Family members and civilian employees, a valid passport and SOFA stamp or card are required to cross the German border.
When questioned about SOFA cards, many travelers have said they were not aware this was a mandatory requirement. However, the wording on the stamp or card makes the intent clear: “The bearer is a member of a civilian component or dependent of a member of a force or civilian component of the United States of America and is entitled to unrestricted entry into and exit from the Federal Republic of Germany.”
“Please ensure your family members have SOFA stamps or cards to comply with German immigration requirements,” Respress said.
Violators can face harsh fines and possibly even deportation, he added. Contact your servicing passport office to obtain a SOFA card.
Finally, travelers should inform themselves of general entry requirements of any foreign country they will be visiting well in advance of their departure to ensure they have the required type of passport and, if applicable, visa.
For questions on obtaining a SOFA card/stamp, please contact your local passport office. If you are part of the Ansbach community and have questions on obtaining a SOFA card/stamp, call the USAG Ansbach Passport Office at 09802-83-3456 or DSN 467-3456.